The event sought to create cross-sectoral connections and to elaborate new directions for migration and development in the Netherlands. The plenary part consisted of a panel discussion that focused on the current situation of migration and development and potential directions for the future. Bob van Dillen, Cordaid’s Senior Migration Advisor, called for migrants and diaspora to join common efforts to safeguard the declining budget for overseas development. He also warned that development aid is increasingly being focused on the ‘ring of instability’ around Europe, leaving poor countries further away from Europe in the cold. Finally he addressed the issue of migration objectives being made part of development programmes and the challenges this gives to NGOs that need those resources, but do not want to become implicated in ‘stopping migrants from coming to Europe’.
This last point raised some discussion with the audience. Within the NGO sector we need more discussion on to what extent we accept migration objectives to be part of ODA projects. This point was further raised by Arjen Berkvens, director of FMS. Food for thought and something that was even further discussed during the drinks after the event.
Ton Dietz, former director of the African Studies Center Leiden, emphasized during the panel that migration from Africa has only just begun and that most migration takes place within Africa. Because of population growth, globalisation of information and transport, but also due to more economic opportunities, the migration of African migrants to Europe is expected to increase. When we talk about migration, it is often a story about us and the others. This dichotomy between them and us must be broken. It is time to build bridges and work together. Milka Yemane, the founder of the Lemat foundation, emphasizes that the diaspora should be much more involved in the migration debate. The diaspora really needs to be integrated into existing institutions. They are the bridge between Europe and in this case Africa. Bikash Chowdhury explained how his organisation is taking this role forward both in Netherlands and Germany, as in Bangladesh. BASUG had just returned from Indonesia, where they took part in a peer learning event of the Global Academy on Migration and Development-GAMD. Such events highlight good practise of cooperation among CSOs, migrants and diaspora organisations.
Images sometimes speak louder than words and that is why there were also various creative entries. PositiveNegatives, for example, had made an impressive animation ‘North Star Fading’ inspired by the testimonies of 4 Eritrean refugees who fled their homes to make the dangerous journey to Europe. The multi-media project ‘The Migrant, a bird on the run’ from Anais Lopez reflects in a creative way on the position of migrants in northern societies. Amoukanama Circus presented in a moving way their personal story on crossing borders from Guinea to Europe through dance and acrobatics. Zuleika Sheikh shared her poem on the position of migrants in the past and reflected on what we can learn from that. Olave Nduwanje, judge, politician and activist said in a video message: "I invite you to start thinking about ways in which we can prevent and repair migration." For example to hold multinationals to account for their actions that force people to flee.
During the second part of the event, several topics were discussed at five dialogue tables, each organised by one organisation:
- the framing of migration
- migrants in the lead
- circular migration and legal pathways
- hosting refugees in the region
- youth employment and migration
Some of the highlights of the dialogue tables you can find here.
Anila Noor made an article 'Including refugees and migrants in decision making on their futures' for the dialogue table on migrants in the lead.
Özge Bilgili made an article 'Promote optimal contact against fear, intolerance and misconceptions about migrants and refugees in Europe' for the dialogue table about hosting refugees in the region.
It is also important how we talk about migration. We have to become more realistic. Seada put it very strongly: “Migration is not a problem and not a solution to your problem. Migrants are just people ”. As NGOs, we must put this first. Bart Romijn reflects at the end of the event: “As development organisations, we need to strengthen the eagerness to listen to others. Today was a great example of creating spaces to establish mutual understanding and to reflect upon future collaborations. For sure we follow this up, amongst others through our Innovation Platform the Spindle.”
Photos you can find here.